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New national Genome Centre to underpin food security and animal health

2 April 2009

A new national centre to analyse plant, animal and microbial genomes has been announced today by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) will be based on the Norwich Research Park and will provide genome sequencing to underpin advances to improve food security, to protect UK agriculture from exotic animal disease and exploit weaknesses in microbes to develop new ways to kill superbugs. It will also be a centre of excellence in bioinformatics to ensure that the data generated by its genome analysis, and that of other facilities, can be effectively collected and analysed.

TGAC will become operational over the next two months and will be formally opened in June. It will be a BBSRC national centre in partnership with EEDA, Norfolk County Council, South Norfolk Council, Norwich City Council, and the Greater Norwich Development Partnership. BBSRC is providing the majority of the £13.5M investment in the Centre and will underwrite its running costs for several years but the partners are all making significant contributions.

Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, said: "Genomic technology has enormous promise. The new Genome Analysis Centre will help to develop UK capacity in this area, where we are already a world leader.

"I am delighted that the centre will work closely with industry to develop our economic potential in such disciplines as bioinformatics and metagenomic sequencing."

A central part of TGAC’s operations will be to work to develop the economic potential of genomic knowledge and technology, as a key part of the new Vision for the Norwich Research Park that aims to help create hundreds of new high-value jobs. Led by a new Business Development Director to be recruited shortly by BBSRC, the Centre will exploit relevant commercial opportunities. This activity and a commitment to make the facilities available to UK companies which could benefit from using advanced genomic approaches will be managed through a trading subsidiary.

TGAC will represent a significant investment in the latest range of genome sequencing and bioinformatics technology. This will be complementary to the work of other genomics centres in the UK and will give the country’s research base a major resource by concentrating on plants, animals and microbes.

The exact projects TGAC will start work on will be determined by an independent Scientific Advisory Board, but future projects could include economically important organisms such as ryegrass for sustainable bioenergy production, the tomato to understand its anti-cancer properties and the sheep to help farmers develop disease resistant breeds.

Dr Jane Rogers, Director of TGAC, said: “The UK has played a key role in the development of genomics research to date. Our aim for The Genome Analysis Centre is to give the UK the lead in the sequencing and analysis of scientifically and economically important plants, animals and microbes. By understanding the genetic makeup of these organisms and combining this with the latest computing techniques we can make a huge contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of the UK in the coming decades.”

Richard Ellis, EEDA Chair, speaking on behalf of the economic development partners, said: “We are investing in TGAC to help in the development of a vibrant ‘knowledge economy’ in Greater Norwich, with high-value jobs and increased commercialisation; to build upon the reputation of the Norwich Research Park for scientific excellence; and to attract innovative science and technology companies to the region.”

TGAC will be based in a building being redesigned and renovated specifically for the purpose on the site of the John Innes Centre, an Institute of BBSRC, on the Norwich Research Park. Once operational the Centre will become an active member of the Norwich Research Park partnership and its ambitious economic development and enterprise agenda.

Interviews with Jane Rogers, TGAC Director, are available via BBSRC External Relations.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) will be established as a national centre of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The Centre is being funded in partnership with economic development partners: the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), Norfolk County Council, South Norfolk Council, Norwich City Council and the Greater Norwich Development Partnership - all of whom are making significant investments.

The John Innes Centre is also providing some capital investment.

The Director of TGAC will be responsible to BBSRC. TGAC scientific programmes will be determined by an independent scientific advisory board which will include members nominated by the economic development partners.

TGAC staff will be employees of BBSRC.

More information about TGAC will be available at a future date from the Centre’s website: www.tgac.ac.uk

Supporting quotes for TGAC launch

Norfolk County Council

Brian Iles, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Norfolk County Council, said: “The Genome Analysis Centre is an extraordinarily important addition to the Norwich Research Park and helps to cement the park's reputation as a centre for world class research. The hope and expectation is that the centre will help to create as many as 700 skilled jobs in under seven years through commercial development. This would be fantastic news for the local economy and in my view this alone is worth the funding and support we have given to the project.”

John Fuller, Leader of South Norfolk Council, said: “Modern agriculture was revolutionised in Norfolk with the advent of the four-course rotation, 200 years ago. This announcement puts our county at the forefront of the next agricultural revolution, ensuring that the world can feed itself for future generations.”

About the East of England Development Agency

The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) is the driving force behind sustainable economic regeneration in the East of England: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. EEDA’s vision is for the East of England to be an ideas driven region that is internationally competitive, harnesses the talent of all and is at the forefront of the low carbon economy. For further information visit www.eeda.org.uk

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299
fax: 01793 413382